Let’s get this out of the way: If you’re looking for the next DS RPG masterpiece, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales will certainly disappoint. Despite the franchise attached to it, it’s really a collection of stylus-based mini-games with an RPG-style overworld. Likewise, if you want WarioWare -styled breakneck insanity, you’ll also be let down. But Chocobo Tales is by no means a bad game, especially if you know what to expect. In fact, we found it to be a very pleasant surprise.
Chocobo Tales stars the titular hero, the well-loved bird of burden from Final Fantasy games past. There’s a pretty silly story going on about Chocobo needing to rescue his friends (and, of course, the world) from the clutches of an evil spirit that was sealed into a book. To do this, Chocobo must find other books and use their magic powers to alter the world around him. This is accomplished by playing a mini-game contained within each book.
The mini-games, which are all strictly stylus-controlled, are well thought out, offer a good variety of tasks. Popular FF figures also come into play in these games: one has you stealing fruits from a bickering Ifrit and Shiva, while another has you fleeing the gaping maw of Leviathan, and so on. Most offer both high-score and competitive modes. By accomplishing certain goals, like beating a certain difficulty or getting a good score, you will earn rewards, including opening up pathways to further progress the story. One annoyance, though, is that the game never tells you which goals correspond to what reward – meaning you may have to play through a mini-game several times over before you figure out what you need to accomplish to proceed.
Supplementing the book mini-games are other simple, optional mini-games scattered throughout the world. These games reward the player with battle cards (featuring well-known FF monsters) for high scores. The card game, which is played during a few key fights, deserves special recognition – it’s very easy to pick up, but still offers a nice amount of strategy. Collecting cards allows more options for crafting a strong deck, so you’re encouraged to collect as many as possible. Card battles can also be carried out over the Wi-Fi network. We tested out online play and found it fantastic. Despite encountering a few jerks that disconnected when they started losing, most games we fought against our anonymous opponents were a blast, often coming down to a nail-biting conclusion.
Rounding out the package is a very well-written localization that injects a lot of clever (but still G-rated) humor into the dialogue, and a musical score that includes re-renditions of several favorite FF tunes. Sadly, there’s too little time to enjoy these things – most players will finish Chocobo Tales in about 8-12 hours, perhaps a few more if you’re trying to earn all the cards. It’s still a great deal of fun while it lasts, though. In the end, Chocobo Tales is the gaming equivalent of cotton candy: it’s not very substantial or filling, but it is sweet, fluffy, and enjoyable.